Crossroads Centre 4 stars
Eric Clapton's drug and alcohol rehab in Antigua is stunningly beautiful and strictly professional. The only problem is readjusting to reality once you're out.
Antigua Drug Rehab Review
If you were to imagine a Caribbean paradise populated solely by a posse of detoxing drunks and drug addicts, Crossroads Centre would be it. Founded by Eric Clapton in 1998 in an isolated, breathtaking corner of Antigua, the 25-acre facility is a tranquil haven, with azure skies and bright purple bougainvillea, encircled by a bright blue sea. Clients start each day with a 15-minute meditation in an open gazebo at the center of the property. The flock of birds who share the space serve as a kind of daily alarm, beginning their hooting chorus each morning a few minutes before dawn.
Residents are paired in rooms that clients praise as “super-clean” and “in excellent repair” and include bathrooms and showers en suite. As befits an island with a temperature that hovers around 75-86 degrees year-round, Crossroad's residents spend lots of time outdoors. Twice a week, they are bused to one of the island's 365 beaches. The facility also features a well-stocked gym, a sand volleyball court and a comfortably heated pool, surrounded by plush loungers. For exercise, residents often hike around a hillside track on the property. A buff trainer with a bad-ass boom-box leads clients through a strenuous regimen of calisthenics twice a week. And a yoga instructor takes patients through their downward-facing dogs every Friday. When they are not in sessions, patients are allowed to wade into the pool. But hours are restricted, and no tank tops, short-shorts, Speedos or bikinis are allowed.
The resort-like atmosphere is further enhanced by Crossroads' first-rate menu. “It’s like spa-quality cuisine,” enthuses one alumnus. The rehab's local chefs churn out nutritious, Caribbean-infused cuisine like jerk chicken, plantains and rice and peas—as well as more American fare such as pizza and pepper steak. A fresh and fully-stocked salad bar is available during every meal, which makes up for the fact that junk food, caffeine and sugar are banned from the premises.
Idyllic as it may appear, Crossroads is deadly serious about its program. “The counselors there are really intolerant of people who are late, don’t show up for meetings or don’t do their homework,” says a recent graduate. And unlike other rehabs, relapsed clients are allowed to come back only once. "They expect you to work your ass off and work your program," says one alum. “You can’t get away with much,” echoes another former patient, who says that most of her fellow clients “agreed that Crossroads was one of the strictest of the rehabs we’d been to.”
Potential hook-ups are discouraged, and transgressors face immediate dismissal. Computers, cell phones, newspapers, magazines and non-self-help books also are banned—as are radios, iPods or “anything else that beeps.” TV is similarly forbidden, although residents are treated to specially selected "recovery-friendly" movies, like Leaving Las Vegas, on Saturday nights. Popcorn is on the house.
Clients are expected to follow a rigorous set of rules, while process groups, heavy on the 12 Steps, are run by "engaging group leaders with many years of experience," says one former resident, who adds that “the whole place is run like clockwork.” And because Crossroads maxes out at 32 clients, everyone gets “a great deal of individual attention.”
If recovery assignments are onerous, other duties are less so, thanks to a relentlessly cheery crew of Antiguan nurses, resident techs and maids, who keep the facility spotlessly clean. While everyone is assigned a weekly chore, "They’re just a formality,” claims one former resident: “I mean, I was on 'pool-skimming' duty! And that's one of the more difficult jobs!"
Crossroads' clientele comprises a wide range of ages and has a more international flavor than you'll find in most stateside facilities: Clients fly here from New York, London, Amsterdam, Jamaica and many points beyond. While it’s not really a celebrity hangout, A-listers are spotted with some regularity: Whitney Houston reportedly chilled here for a month (during which she received regular visits from Bobby Brown) and Britney Spears and her retinue apparently spent eight hours in the lobby before flying back to Miami on her private plane, after Crossroads declined to empty an entire wing to house her entourage. One former resident still can't erase the memory of James Gandolfini in an open bathrobe, running over to the pool.
Crossroads Centre does not accept private insurance, but because it's a generously endowed non-profit organization, the facility's $24,000-a-month price tag is significantly less than you'd be charged at similarly high-end American rehabs. Clients say it also seems less mercenary than other addiction treatment facilities. Administrators have been known to bend prices for patients who can’t afford full-fare, and offer free scholarships to a couple of Antiguan citizens each month. “You don’t constantly feel like they’re hitting you up for cash, like at a lot of these other places,” says one alumnus. Huge fundraisers every other summer attract a wide range of luminaries—often including Clapton himself.
But while the tropical setting evokes images of limbo dancers and candy-colored cocktails, make no mistake: Crossroads Centre is not a month-long vacation for rich dilettantes. The staff here "is strict and really cares” and “is seriously concerned about your recovery,” says a graduate of five years’ standing, adding, “My old counselor still emails me to this day!" Indeed, if there's any complaint about Crossroads, it's that once clients get used to the soothing patterns of sober life on the island, it can be tough for them to make the transition back to real life. "After you spend a month in heaven," one resident notes, “it's really hard to return to Paramus, New Jersey."
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